“Stuck.” “Lazy.” “Failing.” “Sedated.” “Depressed.” These are words that have been looping in my inner dialogue for the last week, though they are lurkers in the periphery of my psyche and always ready to swoop in when I hit a rough patch. By the way, if you haven’t figured it out yet, your own inner voice can be your most crippling critic. This month I was finally making some good progress on a longer piece of fiction, a child’s/young adult story that I am writing in novel form before possibly converting it to a screenplay. It is based on a dream that I had several years back and something that I really want to write for Em. I got twenty or so pages written easily. And then, last Friday I ran into the part that will become the “dreaded Act II” on the same day that I had to run Em to her first dental appointment, meet one friend for breakfast and then another for an evening birthday party. By the way, Act II is the meaty middle of the screenplay and it is notoriously the most difficult part to write because your stakes have to be high enough to drive (and not stall out) the story’s momentum. It is the part that most confounds my writing practice.
Needless to say, my day off from writing on Friday has turned into a week off, leaving me feeling physically and creatively lethargic and “dim”. On Wednesday the tide began to change. I was driving Em to my sister’s place for a play date. In my head raged another sprawling shindig of a pity party, the kind on which my inner critic pulls out all the stops. Somewhere along the drive I managed to ask this question above all the din: “what do I do when I feel like I am failing as a writer because I get so easily discouraged or distracted?” Then a perfectly still voice answered:
“You write anyway. You write through the discouragement or distraction. You write through the depression or moods. You write through the fatigue of Em waking you up four times in a night. You write through being stuck. You write through laziness. You write through the accusation that you are failing (you are not). You write. You go through the obstacles.”
On that drive to my sister’s I developed a plan.
Goals. I am most productive when I have them, but have been trying to be unstructured and flexible this year and not yielding the kind of results that I want. Not only do goals bring focus, but my competitive spirit must have the satisfaction of crossing a silly line through a check-box or action item. The latter motivation is ever so satisfying that it is fail-proof almost to a fault. Ask my husband. Ask former colleagues. When I was a corporate manager, I formed annual strategy and set goals with my team that included quarterly milestones. Bottom line: We. Got. $#!&. Done.
The thing about goals is that you have to write them down and, even better, share them if you want to actually complete them. Otherwise, from experience, they float around half-formed and never grow into fruition. Worse, they can become “what ifs” or regrets that can hinder your confidence down the road. They also need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound – Google these if you need more info). To be doable, I break each goal down into action items (mini goals) or manageable tasks. These action items always give me something to work on if I feel stuck and keep the momentum going.
So my goals for the rest of this year are:
1. Find my writing tribe to read/review my work and provide the support and encouragement I need to improve (It’s about damn time)
- Sign up for a drop-in online writers workshop in August to evaluate long-term commitment (Done today)
- Schedule a meet up in August with a prospective writing partner to discuss writing goals, projects and how we can help each other (Done today)
2. Complete drafts of works in process by writing a minimum of 1 hour every day (yields 3-4 pages or one screenplay in 30 days). Schedule:
- August – September: Complete Draft 1 of the untitled children’s story by my birthday in late September (I want to celebrate that I finally completed a longer work this year)
- October: Finish Draft 1 of “Abimelech Jones” screenplay
- November: Finish Draft 2 of “The Baker’s Daughter” screenplay
- December: Finish Draft 2 of “Dark Horse Downs” screenplay
1. Follow a 25-week training schedule of daily running, cross-training, strength training, or rest to prepare for my third Tough Mudder in 2015
- Register for 2015 Virginia Tough Mudder (pending date/venue announcement)
- Print off and post a 25-week half-marathon training program (printed off and started today)
- Select cross-training and strength-building workouts from personal DVD library and layer on the running schedule
2. Balance stresses on body with daily flexibility, meditation and proper diet
- Follow Paleo diet at least 80% of time
- Do key yoga poses as post-workout stretches and on rest days
- Meditate before bedtime and center breathing when stressed or overwhelmed
As a mom chasing about and teaching a toddler how to not turn into a sociopath and “household manager” taking care of the home and everything in it, I need to keep things as simple as possible. So, my next step is to distill the above goals into a daily practice of writing and exercise/diet. I will satisfy my check-box addiction and stay accountable by putting an “X” on my calendar each day if I get my scheduled pages written and my workout done. The beauty of breaking down my goals into attainable daily tasks is that the time commitment for writing and working out is not terrific, about an hour each. However, it is the daily consistency that produces results over time. Wish me luck….
What are your goals for the rest of the year and how can I support you?